Art collaborations in isolation

One of the most important things to do in these strange new times is maintaining – and intensifying – communications with friends and family. So, it seemed a good idea to set more collaborations in motion, with no particular aim except to keep the artistic brain engaged and keep in touch. I have three in motion, one very local, one in the US and one on the other side of Sydney, a concertina book which I will begin today.

The first of these I began with a friend who lives just up the road from me. Pat is a very good artist, with long experience of working in a range of media, but especially watercolour and pastel. She is in that group that is strongly advised to remain indoors – this goes very much against the grain for her, she is very social and is out and about most days under normal circumstances, so I suggested this idea to her to help with the frustration of staying in, and she was keen to do it. I would drop a package into her letterbox on my morning walk, and collect them from there whenever she was ready.

I cut up 12 small panels of watercolour paper, 15 x 7 cm, some hot pressed (smooth) and other cold pressed (rough). Six I left blank, for Pat to begin, the rest I put marks on. Some already had the beginnings of a drawing on which for one reason or another had been abandoned, others I made marks on, using pen, watercolour and coloured pencil. I suggested to Pat she could do whatever she liked with them, find something representational in them or go fully abstract, use whatever materials she liked, or even cut them up.

Below are the before and after – I was absolutely delighted with the results. The thing about this kind of collaboration is that the other person makes choices I would never have thought of, one she has turned up the opposite way from what I had, so the transformations are magical! The next step will be for me to work on the ones Pat has prepared for me – I can already see things in some of them … that will be the next post here.

The next collaboration is an international one, with my cousin Anne-Marie who lives in Washington state in the US. Anne-Marie is an artist too, working in a range of media, and is academic and thoughtful in her approach. I decided to make postcard size (10 x 15cm or 4 x 6in) panels to share with Anne-Marie which will give us more scope to experiment. Once again, the approach is completely open, we can use any media we choose to, and break into the panels with cuts or stitching or collage if that is what suggests itself. Physical distance is much more of a challenge, sadly I can’t just drop them in her letterbox. The mail will take two weeks to arrive, so I have scanned the images I have prepared and sent them to Anne-Marie for her to think about before the real thing arrives. I used different media on each one : oil pastels, collage with Japanese papers, fine pen lines and punched holes, a pen and ink drawing and a piece cut from a ‘failed’ print. I can’t wait to see what she does with them, and what she sends to me for my input!

Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

19 thoughts

  1. Your collaborations are magical. Talk about “a work in progress” – nothing is more WIP than collaborative work because you have absolutely no idea how it is going to progress once the next artist takes it over. I like how the work goes on an actual physical journey as well as a mental journey. It may be a journey of a few steps to a friend’s letterbox, or one traversing continents.
    These pieces look so fresh, happy, and full of optimism, you’d never think they were conceived in times such as ours. I suppose – while we are in lock down – these small pieces of paper are not. They are free to travel. This reminds me of watching elderly Chinese men flying kites in Shanghai some years back when I was there. The citizens were stuck on terra firma but their paper creations flew strong and free among blue and white infinite space.

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  2. The new collaborative projects are so fascinating. I’m glad you’re sharing all of your pages. Keep moving forward with your endeavors.
    I had no idea you have family north of me. Where in Washington?

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    1. Thanks Gale – like you, I do like to have my fingers in lots of pies! Anne-Marie is in Shelton, and her brother is in Union, their two sisters are over the border in BC. I’ve just looked on the map and it looks like a straight line along highway 5 from you to them, but probably quite a few hours away! We had been out of touch for years, but recently re-connected and found we have so much in common. Its been wonderful.

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    1. You’re right Anne – with most of my work I’m very controlled, but with these I can let go, and it gets easier, and more stimulating as time goes on, and becomes quite liberating. I think it could be a very useful exercise for micro-managers, but it could cause some anguish to start with!


  3. Love these collaborations. I am working in parallel with a group of artists making a ‘survivalist sampler’ recording what we close about live in the pandemic. I am also keeping a paper diary on the subject.

    I am also doing a vague sort of passive community outreach. Each week I am writing a poem on a board and leaning it against one of our street trees. It’s on Instagram as @poettreeACT

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    1. One of the interesting things about this time is the sense that it is important to record it in some way, it is probably (hopefully!) the most momentous event to ever happen to any of us, those who are too young to remember the war, anyway. Communicating with others has become very important to me, more so than ever before. I love the idea of your group sampler – something to become an heirloom for someone! I am keeping a paper diary too, but not very diligently … I will look out for your poems on IG.

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  4. What a lovely idea, Anna, and to think of your collaborations as kites flying above it all! Will they be concertina books as well?
    Leonie’s ideas are interesting too. Maybe there is a place in my life to record the ways that people are staying in touch, building with each other. That would be more positive for me than the grim figures and tragedy.

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